Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.
February 16, 2010, by

Section 98 – Open Source Entry #4 – Checking for a Pulse

Amnesty International launched this multi-platform human rights awareness campaign in Belgium.

by Aislinn Rose

Ever since our most recent workshop in January, my research has been focussed on ways in which we can incorporate wireless and cellular technology into our HATCH work-in-progress.  In particular, we’re trying to find out the best way to allow our audience members to send us text messages throughout the show so that we can project them on screens and/or televisions.  (We have some ideas, but if you’ve got any advice, please feel free to share it in the comments). When it comes to figuring out the solution, we have to keep asking ourselves, “What do we need it for?” – a great question both logistically and theatrically.

As mentioned previously, we want to engage all of you in the debate about civil rights, and we want to do that before, during, and after our presentations.  So we’re using all of the resources we have available to us, including the theatre, our website, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever hand-held gadget you’re currently addicted to (it’s the iPhone for me).  As theatre artists we’re looking at political content and attempting to agitate you and bring awareness by employing some of the techniques typically employed by activists, and there are all kinds of activists who inspire us… and some who are even turning around and using theatrical techniques to get their points across.

The campaign by Amnesty International asked the humans of Belgium to wake up, and what I particularly like about it is that it’s asking a progressive society to stop taking their human rights for granted, reminding them that they must remain forever vigilant.  So are we awake in Canada?  A few of us (across the political spectrum) seemed to be on January 23rd.  But what about when it comes to stickier, less black and white issues?  It seems too easy to want to defend human rights when it’s a child being denied entrance to a school, or a couple being refused a marriage ceremony in a church.

It appears to become more of a challenge to remain awake and engaged when we’re talking about the rights of someone who has (allegedly) fought against us, who has engaged in illegal activities, who has been deemed an enemy or a traitor.  But when does a human being stop deserving basic human rights?  Surely if human rights are something worth fighting for, then we should be willing to fight for them in every situation.

I’ve been searching for a quote for the last several weeks in relation to our Section 98 project and to the issue of civil rights in general, and I think I finally found it.  It is attributed to Margaret Chase Smith a former Republican Senator from Maine, and she said, “the right way is not always the popular and easy way.  Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character”.  So while it may be unpopular, I’d like to know when we’re bringing Omar Khadr home.

By the way, did you know that music by a number of popular western bands (including R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine) has also been used to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq?  I’ll leave you with this little number from Rage Against the Machine… but I will say this, it would be a pretty good torture device for me as well.  And also: Keanu Reeves’ movies.

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  1. ben says:

    I don’t see how that Amnesty stunt is much different from the Quebec TV show Just For Laughs. Both are hiding secret cameras, tricking people into a situation that makes them mad or embarrassed, and then broadcasting it to other people. Human rights are important, this stunt seems more designed to bring attention to Amnesty International than the rights themselves. It’s a cute marketing gimmick, but it left me with a queesy feeling, like when Coca-Cola tries to advertise that it’s “hip”.

    Also, how does one measure “waking up someone’s consciousness”, as it stated that was the aim? Was my consciousness woken up when I had to re-apply for a visa to stay in the country I’m living in for no reason? No. It was a hassle I dealt with it, and forgot about it. It seems that most people directly involved with this stunt might do the same. Unfortunately, it’s not actors playing the part where this stuff really happens. And something a little less flashy and a little more result driven would be appreciated, I think, from such a huge global organization such as Amnesty.

  2. Michael says:

    Aislinn – I think you missed the part of rehearsal where I explained that Rage Against The Machine self-titled was the greatest album of all time. In all seriousness though – it is incredibly perverted and sickening that this particular music would be used at such cross-purposes with its intent.

  3. Aislinn says:

    Ben, you raise some interesting points… and I agree with you about using contrived scenarios to capture people on film in angry or embarrassing situations. I would add Borat to our list (despite the lack of hidden cameras), and I probably won’t make many friends by saying how much I didn’t enjoy that movie.

    I had a discussion with a friend about this campaign prior to our post, and his main concern was that the reactions we see are skewed based on where they were campaigning. Perhaps what we really need to see is this campaign being filmed in various other countries (including our own and the US) so we can see that slippery slope from taking civil rights for granted, to gradually giving up on them one by one for the sake of safety, or national unity, or whatever the reason given. There’s a line in the Amnesty video where one of the bystanders says, “this isn’t the US, you know”. I’d be very curious to see the reactions in the US, and I would imagine they’d vary from state to state.

    However, I think this “Wake Up” campaign can only work when you are taking away things that people are accustomed to having. If you were to go to a country where only state-sanctioned theatre is allowed, you won’t get much of a reaction when an audience is asked to go home. In more conservative parts of Canada where you might find people saying “Omar Khadr gave up his civil rights the moment he went to fight in Afghanistan” is where you’d probably need to set up actors and hidden cameras outside of their churches and not allow them to enter. It’s the whole “it could happen to you” scenario. And if this campaign results in thousands of people going to the Amnesty website who wouldn’t normally, then that can only be a good thing in my mind.

    Mike, I agree with you. About the “perverted and sickening” part, not about the “greatest album of all time” part.

  4. verne says:

    okay, I’ll throw in my two cents’ worth here…at the supreme risk of being called out as being the right-winger in our group, that is! The Omar Khadr issue makes me itchy, and this is why: I consider myself concerned about human rights abuses, and civil rights abuses. Khadr voluntarily went to Afganistan to fight FOR the Taliban, whose Sharia law, in fact, is one of the worst abusers of civil and human rights in the Middle East. Now, I totally think he should get a fair trial and definitely NOT be tortured, and it would be great to get these things happening on Canadian soil so that we can monitor it. But I would be rooting a guilty verdict nonetheless. I am not interested in us getting him back here just to give him a ticker-tape parade.

  5. Michael says:

    Verne! I can’t decide if I’m more pleased that this is a good illustration that our process has included a vigorous exchange of differing views and ideas or if I just want to jump straight to arguing with you. (For those reading along Verne has been developing the play as a designer since early in our process.)

    Omar Khadr didn’t decide to do anything. He was 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan where he was brought by his father. When I was fifteen I decided that I was going to play in the NBA even though I had failed to make the basketball team in grade nine AND grade ten.

    This is why we have the Young Offenders Act in Canada – because we recognize that these individuals are too young to be held accountable for their actions. But okay – you want to get all draconian on the guy anyhow and try him as an adult. Great! He’s just spent seven years being tortured in one of the toughest joints in the world. WTF else can we do to the guy to punish him for decisions he was to young to be held accountable for?

    I’m not arguing for a parade – just common decency.

  6. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr! I know, so weird! Anyway, what’s with the lady that hates “Borat” and why is she even allowed to view such Western filth? Hey-oooooooooh!
    But seriously, folks. Why the kerfuffle? I am charged with murdering a U. S. soldier, Christopher Speer, in Afghanistan, where I had gone as part of my jihad.
    I mean, I’d LOVE to come back to Canada but there’s this small matter of a military tribunal or some such thing because (and this is the weird part!) some people think that the dead soldier’s family deserves “justice.”
    Anyway, I think your friend, Michael is just precious. “The Young Offenders Act?!” Even I know that was replaced in 2003! And I think he should follow his dreams and play in the NBA because law is certainly not going to work out.

    Here’s the only law that DOES apply to me and my “situation” (I can’t even write that without thinking of “Jersey Shore!”)
    Article 4, Third Geneva Convention. If someone isn’t part of a chain of command, doesn’t wear a flag or emblem “recognizable at a distance,” doesn’t bear their weapons “openly” and doesn’t follow the “laws and customs of war,” they don’t have rights as a prisoner of war. Now, don’t TELL ANYONE THIS but I didn’t do any of those things!
    Okay, it’s been a slice (speaking of which, check out my great pic with these awesome severed hands, I’m so KICK-ASS, RIGHT?!)
    Oh, I should have written NSFW but I don’t really respect your work, your lives or your culture so, uh… screw you? Well, that’s not very charitable of me, I meant to type, “please fight for me, please bring me home and together we can plot the destruction of Israel.” Is that better?


  7. Omar Khadr says:

    Oh and Verne, I’m totally with you, man. I hate the torture, hate it. I’m really against it. BUT, the part about me being tried on Canadian soil… yeah, that won’t work. See, I’m on trial in America, for killing an American and I was also captured by Americans. So, they kinda want to have this trial… in America.
    But listen, buddy, if you want to spring me from this joint (maybe Michael can use his impressive vertical and jump over the fence here!) I would totally be down for just coming back there to chill, literally! Right? Because… it’s cold…?
    Come on! Omar made a joke!

  8. Michael says:

    Hi Omar,

    It’s great they let you jump on the internet at Guantanamo for 15 min to fire a quick message to us. Or maybe the just have wireless?

    You’re half right. I was planning to be a lawyer, but then i found theatre and there’s enough of a “game day” element to it that it suited my abilities and temperament well enough.

    Anyways, I don’t know if you’ve been following along with our whole open source element to the creative process, but we’re actively seeking input to our project in all sorts of ways – especially through this website. Are you alright with any of this becoming text in our upcoming workshop?

    Let us know!

    ps Sorry about the whole Supreme Court ruling and us not doing anything about your human rights being violated. It’s kinda gauche to talk about it out loud, but there’s actually a slightly different rules for brown guys.

  9. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr! Again! What’s up, my little infidels? You want to cut and paste my not-so-magical misery tour? But that’s my intellectual property an’ shit!
    Besides, for an aspiring NBA star you seem to have a pretty message-driven piece of theatre in the offing AND WE WILL NOT TOLERATE FLUFFY PUFFY PLAYS WHEN I RULE THE WORLD. Or this cell.
    Whatever comes first.
    But back to this point you made:
    “ps Sorry about the whole Supreme Court ruling and us not doing anything about your human rights being violated. It’s kinda gauche to talk about it out loud, but there’s actually a slightly different rules for brown guys.”
    My brother (I can call you this, yes, you are almost in the NBA?) since when does a court dictate foreign policy? I mean, sure, I’m glad they said… something. But to what end? I’m still going on trial because (unlike a lot of these bastards at Gitmo) I was actually charged WITH A CRIME. I keep trying to explain this to people like you but you just want me to come home, not stand trial and… do what? Work for David Mirvish?
    I don’t think there’s different rules for “brown guys,” but, like they keep telling me here, there are different rules for BAD guys. And I’m kinda bad. 🙁

  10. Michael says:

    Well you must have wireless then. That’s great. I totally could have sworn i saw you on chatroulette earlier this week, but at the time i was like, “Nah that’s impossible”. Was it actually you?

    Anyhow, here’s the deal with your comments and their intellectual property-ness: We’re going to use them in the show – or you can have them back.

    We’re in the middle of a creative process – and we’re happy to have you here if that’s what you want to be a part of. If it’s just heckling from the sidelines then it’s basically “cell phone ringing during a show 2.0” and will be treated similarly.

    Send me an email or leave me a comment as to whether you’d like to have your comments be removed or incorporated into our artistic process. Also – get some sleep. You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow!

  11. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! Especially Michael. I am fascinated by your show and how you will be using comments. How does that work? And why am I suddenly “heckling?” And did the show already start? Because, if it did, you should know that they didn’t allow me a cell phone and so it certainly wouldn’t be ringing. But if it was ringing, the ringtone would totally NOT BE Hava Nagila! I’m sorry, you just touched a nerve regarding a prank that Osama played on me, years ago. It wasn’t funny.
    And, yes, that was me on chatroulette!
    Here’s the link:


  12. Michael says:

    Dude I totally knew IT WAS YOU! Let that be a lesson to me for doubting my instincts.

    Basically we have a lot of raw material that we’re incorporating into a script. 2/3 (The part about communists and separatists.) of it will end up being set relatively in stone. 1/3 will always be free to address human right questions of the present day time period.

    Anyways – given that the Supreme Court just ruled that your human rights have been and continue to be violated, but our government refuses to do anything to address this – we’re pretty darn lucky that our open source project has brought the very person whom we need to know more about in this time period for this workshop. So that’s what makes us interested in using this text and the context in which it would be used.

    Last chance to say no to the process and not have any of this added to the flotsam and jetsam that may or may not end up being part of the workshop. It’s only heckling if you want to shout from the sidelines without playing along.
    (See how I am still prone to using mixed metaphors that reference sports in a theatrical context.)

    Best of luck with your sleep and sensory deprivation!


  13. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr! Sure, Michael, you can use this text, as written. I just hate being taken out of context, because context is everything. I look forward to seeing both sides of my story on the stage. I mean, you’ll have to send me a DVD (UNTOUCHED BY WOMEN!) and a DVD player as they won’t let me leave to attend a play, even if it is about me (mostly).
    I still don’t understand why hearing another side is “heckling,” but that’s for you and your NBA team to sort out. Just because we’re having a discussion on a forum doesn’t automatically compel someone to have their words re-purposed for independent theatre in Toronto. That’s a level of sandbaggery even I don’t participate in, and that’s saying a lot – just ask the dead American solider/medic who thought he was entering a bombed-out house only to get a grenade (guilty!) tossed in his direction.

    Good luck.


  14. Omar Khadr says:

    Uh ohhhhh. Someone deleted my last post. Boooooooo.

    No kisses for you!

    – Omar

  15. Michael says:

    Hold on, no one deleted anything Omar. What post are you referring to? I see everything still here. If comments ever are deleted on this board intentionally there will be a note explaining why. What do you think is missing?

  16. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr! Ah, it is there. It was gone, now there! You are some sort of magician. It now says, “your comment is awaiting moderation.” Well, if I was a moderate I wouldn’t be a Khadr, right? HIGH FIVE!

    I am one funny bad guy.
    Now, check this out, not even the UN can side with me.
    This is bullshit!
    Check out section 38. It says that child soldiers are those who aren’t yet 15 years old — that means 14 or under. So, according to the UN’s own definition, I wasn’t a child soldier.
    Well, what was I? Oh no. Just a murderer? BO-ring! You guys can’t get behind a murderer. I’ll see if I can try another tactic. Keep checking the news!

    Exploding kisses!

    – Omar

  17. t. schwellnus says:

    This faux – Omar thing has killed the level of real debate on a topic that actually requires sobriety. Problem #1 with open-source journalism (and by extension, theatre – which isn’t worth stageing if it isn’t honest): you often don’t know how to judge the reliability of the source. Aliases get in the way of responsible participation. (Problem #2 is posts by people making cute about situations which are life and death to those involved, and not having enuogh respect for their readers to actually be funny.)

    @ “Omar” – don’t worry, you actually were a child in the eyes of the UN at the time of your capture and arrest:
    Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000):
    from preamble: “Noting that article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that, for the purposes of that Convention, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier, ”
    Article 4: “1. Armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years. ”

    Kahdr has not had a trial, military or not. The Canadian Supreme Court isn’t letting him off of any alleged crimes, it is demanding our government do what Britain and Australia did with their nationals who were detained at Gitmo under similar charges: try them in their home country. Makes sense, because torture is a war crime, and there is very credible reason to believe that he has been tortured in Guantanamo. Such repatriation happens all the time. Except now.

    It creeps me out that his actual guilt is being assumed here. This kid, who hated what America was doing to his family’s country of origin (spend any time in the so-called third world to fill your address book with members of that club), threw a grenade at a foreign soldier when that soldier arrived in his neighbourhood to kill his family. I don’t think he’s a saint, but quoting rules at me doesn’t convince me that he wasn’t in a fuck of a hard spot, and like any testosterone-heavy teenager, he made some real bad calls. His fault is that he made them in a country at war. And none of us can talk with any legitimacy about how brutal and out of control that kind of situation is.

    But fuck – treat him like any other (alleged) criminal, or at least with the dignity we bestow upon repeat sex offenders: get him swiftly to trial and judgement.

  18. Omar Khadr says:

    Everyone calm down! It’s me, Omar Khadr! First off, I’m totally sober, I’m not allowed to drink and my religion forbids it, so there!
    What else… oh, I’m not funny? Uh… who said I was trying to be funny, Trevor? I’m in lockdown, that shit ain’t funny! What IS funny is that you don’t really mention which “life and death,” you’re talking about – mine? Christopher Speer’s? Just which side are you on? Because it sounds like you’re on mine! This is fantastic, I need another “useful idiot” (sorry, that’s just what we call you guys) around here ever since Naomi Klein stopped returning my calls. Why on earth should you support Canada’s allies? That’s just silly! Support ME. Support me and my beliefs to attack you and your allies. It just makes good sense.
    And one of my earlier posts was d